Chief Mission Officer

Chief Mission Officer

Philadelphia Zoo

Philadelphia, PA   |   September 30, 2019

About Philadelphia Zoo

In an ever-changing and increasingly urbanized world, we believe the people of our region should play a critical role in preserving the world’s natural resources for the future. Philadelphia Zoo has a distinctive opportunity to be a gateway to joyful discovery that inspires a lifetime of curiosity, learning and caring for wildlife and the world we share.

The Philadelphia Zoo is home to nearly 1,300 animals, many of which are rare and endangered.  A resource to schools and families in the Philadelphia region and beyond, and an advocate for endangered animals around the world, Philadelphia Zoo is dedicated to the engagement of more than 1 million annual visitors with animal and environmental conservation.

The Philadelphia Zoo is seeking an entrepreneurial and experienced leader at an exciting and pivotal moment in the Zoo’s long and distinguished history. In 2019, the Zoo is simultaneously undertaking two critical efforts: a new strategic plan and a new site master plan. The new strategic plan will focus Zoo efforts on creating inspiring and inviting experiences for our diverse audiences and animals, having impact beyond our gates, and continuing our innovation through persistent learning and exploration. The site master plan will redevelop the Zoo’s campus to be a physical and experiential vehicle that brings our mission and strategic goals to life.  The results of these investments will chart a path forward for the organization, ultimately defining ‘the zoo of the future.’

For more information on The Philadelphia Zoo, please visit

The Opportunity

Reporting to the President and Chief Executive Officer and working in partnership with the Board of Directors and other key leaders- Chief Operating Officer, Chief Development Officer, Chief Marketing Officer- the Chief Mission Officer will maintain principal responsibility and strategic oversight of the following core mission areas of the Zoo:

  • Education
  • Conservation
  • Sustainability
  • Impact Measurement and Evaluation
  • Community Relations and Strategic Partnerships

The Chief Mission Officer will serve as an essential member of the Zoo’s senior management team which is charged with: charting a future course for the Zoo that enhances its relevance and impact while contributing to the financial sustainability of the Zoo; reimagining the Zoo’s built environment as the context in which its mission is primarily fulfilled; broadening and redefining the Zoo’s relationship with the communities that surround it; and assuming a leadership position nationally and internationally as advocates for animal care and welfare, and environmental conservation.

The Chief Mission Officer (CMO) will represent the Zoo’s mission internally and externally while working closely with the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Development Officer to steward lifelong relationships with essential partners and Philadelphia Zoo mission ambassadors. The CMO will be responsible for setting strategic direction for mission-related programming and communication while advancing the Zoo’s ability to measure and evaluate its impact.

The CMO will lead strategic initiatives for the organization in the education, conservation and community arenas with a view to ensuring an impact and outcomes orientation to specific initiatives to include:

  • An education pilot with a neighborhood public school within walking distance to the Zoo to focus on a science curriculum in the K-4th grades that would meet all state standards but delivered through learning based on project based, collaborative and critical thinking skills. In this pilot program, the classroom work will be supplemented with out-of-classroom partnership with the neighborhood Philadelphia Free Library branch and nearby Recreation Center and through programs at Philadelphia Zoo. The pilot will establish measurement, define outcomes and set milestones.
  • A neighborhood partnership to address opportunities for wealth creation through equity ownership – in this case, for a neighborhood group to own and operate an indoor hydroponic farm in vacant properties to grow high quality plant products to feed to the Zoo’s animal collection under a multi-year contract with the Zoo. The pilot is establishing financial metrics, ownership structure, capitalization of the project and return to the neighborhood group.
Position Responsibilities 
  1. Evaluate, grow, and oversee the Zoo’s conservation and education programs that support the Zoo’s mission and strategic plan goals, including on-site and off-site public programming, workshops, education programs, and school group experiences.
  2. Participate in a process for capital improvement planning which support current and anticipated programs throughout the Zoo.
  3. Support the Development Department in pursuit of contributed revenue opportunities to fund existing and future mission related programs and initiatives linked to the Zoo’s strategic imperatives.
  4. Lead and direct research, evaluation and impact of all mission-related programs.
  5. Develop, communicate and oversee the implementation of strategic plans to support the Zoo’s work in the core mission areas of education, conservation, sustainability and community partnerships.
  6. Represent the Zoo externally; cultivate relationships with zoos, wildlife agencies, AZA, non-governmental organizations, and others in supports of the Zoo’s overall mission related programs.
  7. Lead, plan and direct the execution of Zoo-wide sustainability initiatives, including partnering with the Facilities team in capital design and construction.
  8. Develop and execute a comprehensive Community Relations Plan that fully integrates the Zoo into its surrounding neighborhoods and positions the Zoo as a catalyst for community revitalization.
  9. Ensure that community needs and interests are fully integrated into and aligned with the Zoo’s operational and strategic plans.
  10. Create and lead execution for the Impact, Measurement and Evaluation group, which is responsible for quantifying the impact of strategic initiatives across Education, Conservation, Sustainability and Community Partnerships.

A successful Chief Mission Officer will possess the following but not limited to qualifications:

  • Bachelor’s degree required, advanced degree preferred and an educational foundation and sophistication that inspires confidence.
  • 10 or more years of progressive responsibility in a position closely tied to education, conservation and/or community relations.
  • Proven executive abilities: planning; communicating; managing talent in a competitive environment; and executing to achieve goals.
  • Outstanding organizational skills including the ability to manage multiple priorities and to consistently meet timelines and budget expectations. Exceptional interpersonal and communications skills including written and oral presentations.
  • Strong analytical skills, with demonstrated experience establishing program performance metrics, managing data-driven program evaluation, and using a data and analytical tools to design, execute, and monitor new programs in conservation, education, and community impact.
  • Demonstrated experience working in complex institutional settings; managing change; and working across divisions within an organization. An ability to quickly engender respect while building organizational understanding of the role of mission-focused work in an operation with responsibility for earned revenue goals.
  • A leadership style that inspires confidence and encourages excellence.
  • Unfailing professional integrity.

The Philadelphia Zoo has engaged Liz Lombard and Angie Sessoms of Koya Leadership Partners to help in this hire. Please submit a compelling cover letter and resume here.

The Philadelphia Zoo is an equal opportunity employer and strongly encourages applications from people of color, persons with disabilities, women, and LGBT applicants.

About Koya Leadership Partners

Koya Leadership Partners is a national retained executive search and human capital consulting firm that works exclusively with mission-driven organizations, institutions of higher education and social enterprises. We deliver measurable results, finding exceptionally talented people who truly fit the unique culture of our client organizations and ensuring that organizations have the resources and strategies to support them. For more information, visit